Devotees upbeat as first batch to leave for yatra today

Yatris chanting ‘Bum Bum Bholey’ at Bhagwati Nagar base camp as first batch of pilgrims is all set to leave for holy cave on Sunday morning. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Yatris chanting ‘Bum Bum Bholey’ at Bhagwati Nagar base camp as first batch of pilgrims is all set to leave for holy cave on Sunday morning. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, June 29: The devotees are in upbeat mood as the first batch of Shri Amarnath pilgrims will leave the base camp of Bhagwati Nagar here early tomorrow morning amid tight security for holy cave situated at an altitude of 3880 metre in deep Himalayas of Kashmir valley.
All necessary arrangements are in place as the first batch is scheduled to leave for Kashmir from here tomorrow morning for twin base camps of Baltal in Central Kashmir district of Ganderbal and Nunwan -Chandanwari in South Kashmir district of Anantnag, official sources told Excelsior.
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The authorities have made three tier security arrangements for the pilgrims and Yatris will be escorted with security forces guard up to both base camps in Valley from here to avert any untoward incident.
For proper security cover, the number CCTVs have been increased at Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas where 44 CCTVs were installed. Besides, a foolproof system of security has been adopted and full record of every yatri entering and leaving the camp at Bhagwati Nagar will be maintained, sources said.
Over 1.5 lakh pilgrims from across the country have so far registered themselves for the 46-day long yatra, which takes place from the traditional 36-km Pahalgam track in Anantnag district and 14-km Baltal route in Ganderbal district, officials said.
Hundreds of pilgrims, including sadhus have started arriving in Jammu and are enthusiastic about undertaking the pilgrimage.
According to official sources, near 1500 pilgrims have managed to reach Bhagwati Nagar Base Camp by late tonight while hundreds of others were sitting outside.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma said all necessary arrangements, including security, have been put in place to facilitate the pilgrims and ensure their safety during the yatra, which will be conducted under the surveillance and close coordination of various security agencies.
The yatra is scheduled to end on August 15 coinciding with the Raksha Bandhan and Sawan Purnima festivals.
Inspector General of Police, Jammu, M K Sinha said adequate security arrangements have been made all along the yatra route right from Lakhanpur — the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir bordering Punjab — besides base camps, lodgement centres, halting stations and community kitchen sites in view of threat perception.
Though there was no specific intelligence input about any plan by terrorists to disrupt the yatra, the security arrangements had been made in view of the present security scenario of the State to foil any attempt by anti-national elements, he said.
Sinha said that strict orders for yatra cut off timing have been issued and instructions have been given to all SSPs to adhere to them strictly. He said it has been made mandatory for Traffic Police and J&K Police to ensure that no yatra or tourist vehicle should leave Nagrota after 7am, Udhampur after 9 am, Ramban after 11.30 am and Jawhar Tunnel after 2pm. Besides, no pilgrim vehicle will be allowed to leave for Kashmir via Mughal road.
Ram Kumar, 35, who had come from Bhopal, MP along with his relatives for the yatra, expressed satisfaction over the arrangements and said he is waiting eagerly for ‘Darshan’ (glimpse) at the holy cave.
“This is for the fifth time I am undertaking this yatra to have darshan of the naturally formed Ice Shivlingam and never faced any problem…the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board and the State administration are doing well as every year we witness improvement in the arrangements”, “Kumar, who had secured the registration for the first-day yatra on July 1, said while talking to Excelsior on his arrival at base camp, Bhagwati Nagar, here.
Vijay Paul of Bhagpat, UP who is visiting 11th time for yatra said he got full support of administration, security forces, local people of Valley and he never faced any problem.
“Every time I visit I add three to four people with my group”, said 57 year old Paul. He said this time he is leading a team of 33 pilgrims to holy cave.
Deepali, 35 from Pune Maharashtra said that it is her third pilgrimage to holy cave and this time she had also brought her aunt and cousins to join her in the yatra. She said her husband is also accompanying her to the pilgrimage and this is his fourth yatra to holy cave. Expressing full satisfaction with arrangements, Deepali said that they never faced any problem previously during the yatra as every body rendered full cooperation to them in J&K.
Besides, the Bhajan Sandya programme at base camp Bhagwati Nagar, this time the exhibitions of handloom and handicrafts have also been organized, said Director Tourism, Jammu Om Prakash Bhagat.
He however appealed the pilgrims that yatris should come on their darshan date to avoid inconvenience. They can reach Jammu Base Camp one or two days prior to the date of journey and not before that.
He said arrangements have been made by Tourism Department for yatris to visit sight seeing places in Jammu like Akhnoor Fort, Bahu Fort etc.
He said arrangements are much better than previous years this time and extra care has been taken that yatris should not face any problem.
The pilgrims will be taken in a convoy to their desired destinations, Pahalgam base camp or Baltal base camp in the Valley, to proceed for the cave shrine by foot after night stay there.
The yatra will be led by a group of sadhus who are separately staying at Ram temple in the Purani Mandi area of old city where their registration for the pilgrimage started this morning.
Meanwhile, hundreds of yatris are reaching here from other parts of the country. There was a heavy rush at registration counters in Jammu as large number of pilgrims were seen sitting in queues for their turn.
According to reports, 2100 pilgrims in 35 buses left Lakhanpur –the gateway of J&K for Jammu today. They were received at Lakhanpur by SSP, Kathua Shridhar Patil.
The other officers of J&K Police, Traffic Police, CRPF , Army, IRP and members of civil society and prominent citizens were present on the occasion.
The SSP Kathua said all security arrangements have been made in the district for pilgrims and for safe tracking of vehicles a security chip will be pasted on the moving vehicle. Besides, one time traffic check document sticker will also be pasted on the vehicle to ensure hassle free yatra, he added.